I don't hear "You're a dick!" very often. Maybe never. But my citizen activism leads to me being called other derogatory names, like bombthrower.
I've made that into a term of endearment. Here's what I said in a 2014 post:
I've been called a bomb-thrower by folks at City Hall. I guess this is supposed to be an insult. I consider it a compliment.
I'm proud to speak out loud and powerfully when I see stuff going on in Salem that shouldn't be. My goal is to throw truth-bombs that open up minds and demolish barriers to seeing what is happening behind closed doors.
So when I came to a chapter called Fighting the Good Fight in David Silverman's book, "Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World," I enjoyed what he had to say on the subject of being a dick.
Usually this is viewed as an insult. But Silverman has an appealing take on the term that rings true to me.
Understandably, he uses atheist activism as an example in the passages below (Silverman is the president of American Atheists). However, the principles of dickishness he talks about apply to every circumstance where truth is valued more highly than getting along for the sake of niceness.
Excerpts from David Silverman's book, Fighting God:
I'm sick of being told not to be a dick, and not just because I dislike gender-specific insults (which I only use in this case because it's what some people call me).
It's sometimes important to do things that make people call you a dick. I'm going to spend some time talking about why acting in a manner that some people regard as dickish is not only appropriate, but also necessary to the movement and the country, and, in an important way, downright nice.
So, what's a dick?
The definition varies from person to person, but to many I'm a dick whenever I say something that makes theists angry or even mildly puts them out. If I call a religion a myth, I'm a dick. What I say may be true, but I'm still a dick... I simply tell the truth and use labels that are accurate, if not politically correct.
...I may be called a dick for speaking the truth, but some of the real dicks are the atheists who tell me not to be one. Some verbally attack me with a holier-than-thou attitude usually reserved for the most pompous of preachers, laced with bile and vulgarity reminiscent of the crap we get from the Religious Right.
...I am not saying all "nice guy" atheists are assholes, just those who are so shortsighted they can't see how quickly and by how much this movement would lose its steam without firebrands to blaze the way for discussion by breaking the barriers of political correctness.
Not calling bullshit on bullshit is bullshit.
...Diplomacy alone cannot trump greed, money, and power. That's why diplomacy alone will always ultimately fail to produce the results all atheists seek in a timely manner.
...Enter the firebrands. We chip away at privilege, disrespect the unrespectable, and refuse to obey someone else's religious rules. We laugh at threats of hell, literally and loudly, while demanding total equality.
We attract everyone's attention to atheists' existence and issues. Firebrands are the movement's awareness generator. Firebrands go on TV complaining and shouting and demanding, and then the diplomats come out to soften our statements -- sometimes emphatically so.
In the end, the firebrands look like "bad atheists," the diplomats look like "good atheists," and guess what that means to believers? Good atheists do exist.
This is called "shifting the Overton window" (a new name for an old strategy), and it is well described by Josh Bolotsky at beautiful trouble.org as follows:
The Overton window...designates the range of points on the spectrum that are considered part of a "sensible" conversation within public opinion and/or traditional mass media.
The most important thing about the Overton window, however, is that it can be shifted to the left or the right, with the once merely "acceptable" becoming "popular" or even imminent policy, and formerly "unthinkable" positions becoming the open position of a partisan base.
The challenge for activists and advocates is to move the window in the direction of their preferred outcomes, so their desired outcome moves closer and closer to "common sense."
There are two ways to do this: the long, hard way and the short, easy way.
The long, hard way is to continue making your actual case persistently and persuasively until your position becomes more politically mainstream, whether it be due to the strength of your rhetoric or a long-term shift in societal values.
By contrast, the short, easy way is to amplify and echo the voices of those who take a position a few notches more radical than what you really want.
Because of the firebrands, change is happening not on an individual level, but rather on a national level... It is the firebrand who primes the theist for the diplomat.